The ASEAN Secretary-General, Dr. Surin Pitsuwan, participated for the first time since he assumed office in the 13th High Level Task Force on ASEAN Economic Integration (HLTF-EI) held in Ho Chi Minh City, Viet Nam on 9-10 April 2008. 

He deliberated with the HLTF-EI on key strategic issues pertaining to the implementation of the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) Blueprint and deepening and strengthening of ASEAN economic integration. In particular, he focused on the AEC scorecard mechanism to track and assess the implementation of the AEC Blueprint and a comprehensive communications plan to engage and involve all stakeholders in supporting AEC, in particular the business community, government agencies and the media. Other ongoing work in ASEAN economic integration and free trade agreements with Dialogue Partners were also discussed.

Dr. Surin Pitsuwan said that the “scorecard mechanism is crucial for a rules-based ASEAN to meet the targets and timelines as stipulated in the Blueprint”. On the communications plan, he said that “bringing the economic community to the people will be vital for the sustainable development of the economic community as people and business should realise and appreciate the positive impact of AEC on their lives and support the community building efforts”.

The recommendations of the HLTF-EI will be tabled at the forthcoming ASEAN Economic Ministers’ Retreat in April 2008 in Bali, Indonesia. 

Apart from the ASEAN Secretary-General, Vice-Ministers, Permanent Secretaries and Director-Generals of trade and/or industry ministries attended the meeting. The Meeting was chaired by Mr. Peter Ong, Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Trade and Industry of Singapore.